Agent Stories: Exploring Philly Arts Spaces With Niki Cousineau

Niki Cousineau approaches real estate the same way she approaches her practice as a dancer and choreographer – it’s all about space. Niki, a new agent with Solo, appreciates space in all of its forms. She brings this appreciation to her work as a realtor. Who better to help you find your next home than someone who sees the beauty in a whole range of unique spaces?


While the connection between dance and real estate might not be readily apparent, a deep emphasis on the spaces we inhabit is something shared by both. Recently Niki took us on a tour of some remarkable arts and performance spaces that most Philadelphians might not have access to normally. Take a look at our insider’s peek at Philly’s cool performance, arts, and practice spaces!


The Glass Factory


The first place Niki showed us is tucked away on a quiet side street in Brewerytown. From the outside you would never guess the amazing, cavernous space that lies within. Niki first discovered this space with the company she co-directs, Subcircle. Subcircle came to the Glass Factory with their show Hold Still while I figure this out in June 2016. That piece was more recently performed at FringeArts this past fall.


One thing that really stands out in the Glass Factory are the raw materials. While the space is simple, the signs of it’s past life as an auto shop give off a raw, edgy vibe. The exposed brick with phrases such as “Cars Washed” and “Brakes” painted on and the iron beams fit in with today’s popular post-industrial vibe. Meanwhile, the spacious stage and skylights add lightness and grace to the room.

While Niki discovered the Glass Factory through her dance and choreography work, the space hosts a wide array of events including music performances, martial arts classes, and art installations.

Subcircle performing at the Glass Factory


MAAS Building


The second location that Niki gave us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of was the MAAS Building. This brewery turned trolley repair shop in Olde Kensington is, coincidentally, just two doors down from our project Kensington Yards. Now the building is home to two offices on the ground floor, an events and practice space, a recording studio, a large garden courtyard behind the main building, and a private residence.

When owners Ben and Catherine first acquired the MAAS, it hadn’t been used since its days as a trolley shop. It’s because of this that so much of the original industrial workshop character is preserved. A floor was built to divide the building into two stories, and this diverse practice, performance, work, and home space was born.


While one of the most common uses of the upstairs space is actually weddings, Niki and her company Subcircle host their works in progress series and rehearse there. Other local groups that take advantage of this gorgeous, open space are Almanac Dance Circus Theatre and New Paradise Laboratories.

Subcircle in the second floor of the MAAS Building


Crane Arts


The last space Niki showed us was Crane Arts. Crane Arts is a well established place for artists’ studios and rental space in Olde Kensington. In more recent years they transitioned their Icebox Project Space to having a more structured public presence as well. The Icebox already existed as rental space in the Crane Arts building, in fact, Subcircle did their piece Still Unknown there in 2006. Now they host more regular performances, installations, and shows. With this expanded programming, Crane Arts moves beyond its role as a rental space. The directors are interested in expanding their scope and joining the conversation in Philly’s art community. 


Believe it or not, the Crane Arts building used to be a plumbing warehouse. After that a seafood packaging plant called the enormous building home. Between the shuttering of that business and its 2004 purchase, the building remained vacant. The Icebox, which we spent most of our visit in, was actually a giant walk-in freezer back in the days of the packaging plant, hence its name. Some of that original character is still noticeable in the large, blank space suitable for all sorts of performances and installations.


An edited photo from a Subcircle performance in the Icebox

Blocks We Love: 2700 South Street

If you’ve ever sat on the fence, unable to decide between bustling downtown living or a more relaxed neighborhood set up, the 2700 block of South Street might peak your interest. Philadelphia is such a great city because it settles somewhere in the middle of skyscrapers, high-rises, and all of the action they denote, and the low-rise, neighborhood scale that comes from the city’s immense stock of rowhomes.


Sometimes referred to as Devil’s Pocket or “The Pocket” for short, this little nook is situated in the middle of beautiful, historic Fitler Square and hip Graduate Hospital, at the nexus where Center City gives way to University City. This stretch of seven petite, colorful rowhomes feels quaint and intimate, yet right in the midst of the beating heart of city living in Philadelphia.



Each home sports a matching door, pediment, and cornice, painted in a color unique from the others in the row. The overall impression is one of cohesiveness. Despite the multitude of hues represented amongst the twelve rowhomes, the uniformity of the doors with their unique pediment and continuous cornice line puts forth the image of a united front.


The simple pediment above each home’s door harkens back to the Colonial period. While it is unlikely that these houses are quite that old, it is possible that they date as far back as 1895. The style of the housing stock, particularly as evidenced in earlier photographs which show simple, unadorned, three-story brick structures, suggests a turn of the century construction. The pediments were likely added at some point in the past half century as a cosmetic upgrade or as part of more significant renovations.


Two photographs from the mid-1900s of the area: Facing West on 27th Street in 1953 showing the row of homes on the 2700 block and the South Street Bridge (Above); Taken from Schuylkill Ave in 1949 showing the irregular parcel shape of the corner property from behind (Below). Source: PhillyHistory.org. http://www.phillyhistory.org. Philadelphia Department of Records (accessed August 26, 2017).


On historic maps of Philadelphia there are parcels indicated on this block as early as 1895, with eight parcels outlined. The correct number of slots, seven, don’t show up until 1942. Possibilities to explain this difference in parcel count include that the homes were combined at one point to form larger properties, the end unit alone was transformed from two to one to compensate for the unconventional angle taken at the corner, or the homes could have been raised and rebuilt entirely. A remaining explanation comes down to a simple error in transcription from on the ground surveying to mapmaking.


Two historic maps of Philadelphia: 1895 Bromley Atlas showing 8 parcels (Above) and 1942 Works Progress Administration Land-Use Map showing 7 parcels (Below). Source: Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network Interactive Maps Viewer, http://www.philageohistory.org/tiles/viewer/.


Over time, each homeowner has imbued the facades with their own personal flair, through paint colors, “front lawn” furniture, and a variety of well kept plants and flowers.


We love this block for its historical significance, charming facades, one of a kind location at the core of three major parts of the city, and proximity to great Philadelphia mainstays like the South Street Bridge, Schuylkill River Trail, and Fitler Square Park.


Philly Public Pool Guide

Did you know that Philadelphia has more public swimming pools than any other city in the country? As the temperature climbs, that is definitely something to take advantage of as a Philadelphian.


With 70 outdoor pools (and 3 indoor), it’s more than likely that there’s one right around the corner from your house that you might not even know about. To help you find the public pool closest to you, we’ve created an interactive map to guide you through the 2017 summer swimming season, which kicks off between June 22 and July 1 (depending on the location).


For more information about Philly’s public pool guidelines, check out the City of Philadelphia website. In the meantime, check out our helpful map below and next time the temperature hits 90 be sure to get yourself to your neighborhood pool to cool off!


Keeps Getting Better With Age: Exploring The Fingerspan Bridge

Tucked into a trail along the Wissahickon Creek lies one of Philadelphia’s most intriguing and inviting works of art. At 59 feet long, the Fingerspan bridge connects two sides of a deep ravine, allowing visitors the chance to view the creek from a breathtaking vantage point.


In 1987, internationally renowned artist and PAFA alumni, Jody Pinto, developed the 18,000-pound bridge. Fingerspan looks like an enormous finger built with weathering steel. Weathering steel, also known as COR-TEN, forms a protective layer of rust when exposed to the elements. Gradually, it blends harmoniously with the natural landscape. You can find weathering steel in other public sculptures throughout the city: The Clothespin,  The Wedges.


The properties of weathering steel which make it so well suited to public art also apply to residential home design. Our recent listing at 2401 Emerald St. includes a corrugated COR-TEN facade, and we expect it will age marvelously.


weathering steel home philadelphia
Solo Real Estate Listing at 2401 Emerald Street: A property clad in weathering steel.

We love Pinto’s use of weathering steel, as well as her finger-shaped design.  Many of her works include imagery of the human body, and Fingerspan is no exception. Because it imprints itself on the on the landscape, the sculpture speaks to how humans leave their mark on the natural world.


Because the weathering steel material blends so harmoniously into the wooded landscape, the bridge is often difficult to spot until you’re very close. Looking like an outgrowth of the wooded forest, Fingerspan reflects on the interconnectedness between humans and the environment.


To visit  Fingerspan, wear a sturdy pair of shoes and come prepared to do a bit of rugged hiking. The walk down the bridge isn’t very long, but it’s rather steep in some parts. If viewing the bridge by car, plan to park on Allens Lane in Mount Airy, and walk down Livezey Lane to the creek at a point where the dam and Canoe Club are visible. Turn left and follow the Orange hiking trail to a small steel footbridge, and climb stone steps to Fingerspan.



Places We Love: Philly At Holiday Time

The Holidays are an amazing time in Philadelphia. From bustling shops to brightly lit streets, our city is down right magical in December. We’ve asked videographer Cory Popp to capture the best of that scenery and show one of the places we truly love: Philly At Holiday Time

Indeed, our city’s diverse communities are what make the Holiday Season here so colorful and exciting. From the quirky gifts at the Punk Rock Flea Market in Callowhill to the scent of fried latkes in Rittenhouse to the taste of Pannetone in the Italian Market, each corner of the city offers unique seasonal treats.

Best yet, the city has a number of blocks that come together to put on extravagant community light displays. These impressive works, many of which are found on the family-friendly blocks of South Philadelphia, remind us that at its heart the holiday season is more than just a personal experience, but a communal one as well.

So whether you’re celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, New Years Eve or the Mummers Parade, check out the video below. We think you’ll agree that Philadelphia at Holiday Time is a place you love too.

Places We Love: Philly At Holiday Time

Places We Love: Wissahickon Valley Park

Solo Blog’s “Blocks We Love” lets us highlight some of the best small communities in Philadelphia. But some places are simply too big for the series! With that in mind, Solo’s videographer Cory Popp and his wife Lauren have produced a celebration of one of the “Places We Love”: Wissahickon Valley Park.

As you’ll see in the following video, the park especially amazing in the fall, when colors change and the trees offer spectacular displays of gold, orange, red and yellow leaves.

Places We Love: Wissahickon Valley Park

At 1,800 acres, Wissahickon Park is one of Philadelphia’s largest and best-loved natural spaces, known for its challenging walking and biking trails, wide and slow-moving creek and immense size. Before the Wissahickon became part of Northwest Philadelphia’s extensive green space system or an engine for the area’s early economy, Lenni Lenape Indian tribe, which is why you can find a 15-foot statue commemorating one such Indian on the east side of the park. Centuries later, the park still houses many of the natural resources and elusive but intriguing wildlife that most likely attracted visitors long ago. Today, Philadelphians can be found using the park for everything from mountain biking to Ultimate Frisbee, to dog walking and family picnics.

The truth is, the park may be (as the website boasts) a “magnet for all types of outdoor enthusiasts,” but the attraction I have to the Wissahickon is its mix of serenity and accessibility. Biking down Kelly Drive, passing Boathouse Row, and riding alongside the Schuylkill River is my favorite route, but the possibilities are endless. Using City Hall as a starting point, the southernmost end of the park is 6.5 miles away, just a 16-minute scenic drive on Kelly Drive. The park is also accessible by multiple buses. Or, if you’re really adventurous, you and your companion for the day could rent a tandem bike or a modern surrey to peddle your way there.

An autumn view of Wissahickon Creek.

No matter how you arrive at the park, there’s no contest–it is the quietest place in all of Philadelphia. It may be the perfect place for outdoor activities, but it is also ideal for journaling, taking photos, resting, or just thinking. Once you’ve walked deep into the woods on your favorite trail, having convinced yourself no one else knows about it, or you‘ve biked as far as you can go on Forbidden Drive, take a seat and rest amongst the trees or beside the babbling creek and I guarantee you will never want to leave. The sounds of Wissahickon Valley Park are tranquil enough to drown out the noise of city life, leaving you with just enough room to process the beauty all around.

Text by Lauren Popp.